A Further Perspective

Let’s Empty Nancy’s Pantry

Former Speaker Pelosi must be locked in the wrong cupboard.

By 10.11.13

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As if the government shutdown wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. Treasury is set to run out of borrowed funds on October 17. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew wants Congress to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, and plenty of our elected representatives are clamoring for the same “solution.” Somehow it never occurs to government to rein in its spending habits, even while ordinary citizens across the U.S. are tightening their belts. In fact, last month House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed shock at the very suggestion: “The cupboard is bare,” she cried. “There’s [sic] no more cuts to make.”

Perhaps Ms. Pelosi needs to take another good, hard look at the back corners of her “cupboard.” The government is chock full of wasteful, redundant programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year. How about we slash those programs before we borrow more money and pile even more debt on our children and grandchildren? Here are just a few areas where cuts could be made immediately.

1. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) just issued a regulation for measuring power consumption in TVs despite the fact that the private sector already has a test method. This DOE-mandated test procedure is a prime example of wasted time and taxpayer money. The DOE should have deferred to the existing industry consensus standard, known as ANSI/CEA-2037, which was developed with input from interested industry and non-industry stakeholders. By mandating its own test procedure, the DOE has tied everyone’s hands, limiting the ability of industry to maintain test procedures that benefit consumers and existing programs such as ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide. The DOE should withdraw its new regulation and stop spending money reinventing the wheel.

2. The Obama Administration has effectively reversed the Clinton welfare reforms by allowing states to opt out. Congress can put the Clinton reforms back into effect, saving billions by some estimates.

3. Federal entitlement spending is out of control, and the system is widely abused. Just consider Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which together dole out checks to some 14 million Americans each month. Disability costs taxpayers more than welfare and food stamps combined — about $260 billion per year. While some workers genuinely need the aid, many are simply gaming the system and not going back to work.

4. In 2011, taxpayers paid $155 million for federal employees to work for their unions in a practice called “official time.” In other words, taxpayers are footing the bill while government employees work for unions -- not for the taxpayers.

5. Last year alone, the IRS squandered $11.6 billion in erroneous refunds through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — accounting for about 21 percent of all EITC payments in 2012. Federal law requires the IRS to keep errors under 10 percent, but the agency has failed to comply for the past two years.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. When President Obama asked the American people to offer ideas for cutting waste in 2009, ordinary citizens came back with 86,000 ideas -- of which Obama chose to try to implement only 67, many of which were things his administration was already doing. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has come up with a list of a dozen quick cuts government could make, including crop insurance, Amtrak subsidies, and Medicare for the wealthy. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that shows 31 areas where government could reduce overlap among agencies and achieve greater efficiency.

Ms. Pelosi’s cupboard comment reflects today's liberal Democratic view that any tightening of entitlements or review of spending is heretical. Our government has been on a wild spending spree for far too long, and there are plenty of places where spending could be cut. But raising the debt ceiling so government can borrow more money will only make the eventual crash more painful. Our children and grandchildren are already going to be buried under our mountain of debt. This is wrong and irresponsible. The cupboard is far from bare. Let’s shine a light on the darkest back corners and force our elected leaders to start behaving responsibly with our tax dollars. Future generations are counting on it.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own.